IDF officer: Killing Nasrallah would mean victory in war against Hezbollah
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IDF officer: Killing Nasrallah would mean victory in war against Hezbollah

Army official’s comment comes amid ongoing tension in the north, rumors Israel might carry out preemptive strike if Iran builds a missile factory in Lebanon

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gestures during a rally to mark Jerusalem Day or Al-Quds Day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, August 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gestures during a rally to mark Jerusalem Day or Al-Quds Day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, August 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Killing Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah would amount to a “decisive victory” for Israel in a future war with the Hezbollah terrorist group, a senior IDF official said on Wednesday.

The warning directed against the terror chief came amid increasing speculation that a war between Israel and Hezbollah is becoming more likely, with Jerusalem threatening it will take action to keep the group from getting Iranian precision-guided missiles.

“If we succeed in killing Nasrallah in the next war, that will be a decisive victory,” the officer told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Nasrallah has long suspected that Israel sees him as a prime target and has therefore lived in an underground bunker for the vast majority of the last 11 years — since the Second Lebanon War — fearing an Israeli airstrike.

The 2006 war with the Iran-backed Hezbollah ended without such a “decisive victory,” and the conflict is generally seen in Israel as having been either a failure or a draw.

Women wave Lebanese and Hezbollah flags in front of portraits of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil on August 13, 2016. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Zayyat)

Tensions with the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria axis ramped up recently following a significant aerial clash earlier this month, after an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace and Israel conducted a series of reprisal airstrikes, but not before losing an F-16 fighter jet in the process.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran is trying to entrench itself militarily in Syria and provide Hezbollah with increasingly accurate missiles, with which the terror group can threaten the Jewish state.

On Tuesday, US Senator Lindsey Graham said that Israeli officials told him last week that a war on Lebanese soil was imminent if Hezbollah continued to construct a precision-guided missile factory aided by Iran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with US Senator Lindsey Graham in Jerusalem on May 27, 2015 (Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“They’ve told us in no uncertain terms that if this threat continues — they keep making rockets that can hit the airport and do a lot of damage to the State of Israel — they are going to have to go in,” said Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, according to Bloomberg.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior IDF officials have repeatedly warned that Iran has been building guided-rocket factories for Hezbollah, and Netanyahu raised the issue a month ago in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lebanon was “becoming a factory for precision-guided missiles that threaten Israel,” Netanyahu said after that meeting. “These missiles pose a grave threat to Israel, and we will cannot accept this threat.”

“Southern Lebanon is where the next war is coming,” Graham said on Tuesday, adding that Israeli leaders had requested US diplomatic support for Jerusalem if the IDF strikes Hezbollah targets located in civilian areas.

Another major request by Israel was “ammunition, ammunition, ammunition,” he continued.

Graham was speaking at a press conference alongside Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware, after both were part of a bipartisan delegation of US lawmakers to Israel last week.

Both senators urged US President Donald Trump’s administration to develop a clearer policy to counter Iran’s influence in the region, and also to deal with its ally Russia.

Tehran was “testing” Trump and the international community, charged Graham, blaming the lack of a clear US strategy for the Hezbollah missile factory.

US Army General Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command, testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 27, 2018. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

On Tuesday, General Joseph Votel, head of the US’s Central Command, told a House committee that “while we continue to confront the scourge of terrorism, Iran’s malign activities across the region pose a long-term threat to stability in this part of the world,” the report added.

Votel accused Moscow of playing “both arsonist and firefighter, fueling tensions among all parties in Syria” but also being in a position to act as an “arbiter” to solve the crisis.

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